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Chemical Warfare Chemicals and Precursors


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Chemical warfare chemicals (also known as CW agents) includes toxic chemicals and their precursors that often have legitimate commercial uses. Some may even be produced in common multipurpose plants. The international Chemical Weapons Convention aims to monitor their manufacture, use and trade by an agreed system of inspections, permits and notifications administered in Australia by the Chemical Weapons Convention Office (CWCO).

In practice the impact of the Convention will be to monitor activities using listed CW Agents and precursor chemicals, as well as chemical facilities which could provide the infrastructure for their production.

The office publishes useful guides; bullet The Chemical Weapons Convention - A guide for Australian industry producing or using chemicals. bullet The Chemical Weapons Convention - Information for Importers and Exporters of Chemicals. The office may be contacted;

Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office
Dept of Foreign Affairs and Trade
RG Casey Building
John Mc Ewen Crescent
Barton ACT 0221
Phone +61 (0)2 6261 1920
Fax +61 (0)2 6261 1908

Countries that are party to the Convention.

Monitoring and control

The monitoring of the manufacture and use reflect the nature of the chemicals and the operation. Trade is now controlled by a system of restrictions and licensing to be enforced under Customs Acts with the general obligations defined in the Chemical Weapons (Prohibition) Act.

Compliance with the CWC is verified through inspections defined by international and national guidelines. These inspections aim to confirm the consistency of on-site activities with information in declarations.

Permit requirements apply to the production of toxic chemicals and precursors listed in the three Schedules, and the processing and consumption of Schedule 1 and 2 chemicals in excess of specified amounts. Where the process of; bullet production creates a chemical through a reaction process; bullet processing includes a physical step such as formulation, extraction or purification in which a chemical is not converted to another chemical (and excludes sub-distribution and packaging); and bullet consumption converts one chemical into another by a chemical reaction. See also Notes

Schedule 1
Schedule 2
Schedule 3
These are listed chemicals with a high risk for the purposes of CWC with generally very limited commercial applications. It includes nerve agents,
nerve agent precursors and blister agents. Some have very limited use in research or medical treatment, such as saxitoxin, ricin and nitrogen mustards


A permit will be required for any production, and for research, medical or pharmaceutical activities where quantities exceed 100 gms per year.

An advance license is required (Customs Act) for their importation or export with end use certification. Trade will only be allowed with other CWC parties and may not be re-exported to a third country.

In the case of facilities producing Schedule 1 chemicals (above thresholds), the controls are confirmed by a rigorous system of declarations and on-site inspections defined by international guidelines to confirm usage, quantities and to check for diversions.

The requirements are;
application for import must be received by the CWCO not less than 37 days before the shipment date.
cannot be exported to non-CWC States Parties;
export applications must be made in writing at least 37 days before the intended date of export;
prohibition on re-export of the chemicals to a third country;
they may only be imported from a CWC State Party; and

Includes chemicals with limited commercial uses which pose a significant risk for CWC. The schedule includes toxic chemicals that could be used as chemical warfare agents and those which are precursors to Schedule 1 chemicals.


Subject to threshold amounts, a permit is required for their production, processing or consumption. If higher thresholds are exceeded, a system of international inspections is used to confirm that on-site activities are consistent with declared activities.


Up to three years after CWC is in effect, Schedule 2 chemicals may be imported without licence or permit, after which import is allowed only from other CWC parties.

All applications for export must be accompanied by an end-user certificate where the intended destination is a country which is not party to the CWC and. from 29 April 2000, exports only to CWC parties.

These are chemicals considered a risk for CW control that includes such common chemicals as triethanolamine, hydrogen cyanide, phosgene and chloropicrin.


A permit is required if more than 30 tonnes is anticipated to be produced at a facility in a year. Subject to thresholds, a system of international inspections is used to confirm that on-site activities are consistent with declared activities.

Exports of these chemicals requires a license and may require end-use certification.

All applications for exports must be accompanied by an end-user certificate where the intended destination is a country which is not party to the CWC.

Other - discrete organic chemicals

Discrete organic chemicals are defined to be compounds of carbon (excluding oxides, sulfides and metal carbonates), identifiable by chemical name and structural formula but excludes long chain polymers.

Producers of discrete organic chemicals that are not included in the Schedules are required to notify the CWCO if the amount of the past years' activity was more than 200 tonnes, or 30 tonnes if containing phosphorous, sulfur or fluorine. Exemptions apply to plant sites that exclusively produce hydrocarbons or explosives.



bulletMixtures are controlled with threshold limits as containing;
bulletSchedule 1 - in any amount bulletSchedule 2 - more than 10 per cent (solvent free basis). bulletOther listed - more than 25 per cent (solvent free basis).


bulletInspections are provided for with internationally agreed safeguards (managed access) to protect commercially sensitive information.

When to contact CWCO

bulletThe CWCO should be advised where the amount at a facility involved approaches 50 per cent of the threshold that requires a permit or notification. Further information is available from the CWCO.

Chemlink Pty Ltd ACN 007 034 022. Publications 1997. All contents Copyright © 1997. All rights reserved. Information in this document is subject to change without notice. Products and companies referred to are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders. URL: